Why we love Battambang

Why we love Battambang

Battambang is a city that is overlooked on a lot of travelers itineraries but for us, it was one of the highlights of our trip. Being Cambodia’s second-largest city, Battambang is far removed from the hectic business of the capital Phnom Penh. It is a quite nice city, as we walked the streets we saw hardly any other tourists, it was like we entered a ghost town. 

In this post, you will find our favorite things to do and plenty of tips for your trip to Battambang. We stayed 1 day in Battambang but would have loved to stay longer if we had the time. 

How to get there 

We arrived very late in the evening as we took the bus from Phnom Penh. They told us it would take 6 hours, but it took 10 hours for us to arrive. From Phnom Penh, you have 14 daily departures to Battambang. You can get there by bus from Siem Reap as well (3 hours). If you don’t mind paying a bit extra, you can travel from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to Battambang by hiring a private car and driver for the day. This is the most comfortable and quickest way to travel.  You can also get from Siem Reap to Battambang by boat but this takes around 10 hours.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Star Hotel in Battambang’s city center. There is not much to do in Battambang’s city center; there are some shops, a central market, a little night market, art gallery’s and some restaurants. 

How to get around

The easiest way to explore Battambang and the countryside is by taking a tuk-tuk for the day. 

Phnom Banan

Situated on the top of a hill, 22 kilometers from Battambang, Phnom Banan is an Angkor-era temple overlooking the countryside. The ruin of Phnom Banan, which was built in the 11th century, is one of the best-preserved Khmer Temples around Battambang. To reach this temple you have to climb up 385 steps. The temple itself is beautiful and the views over the surrounding area are stunning! 

Phnom Banan is open from 8 am – 6 pm daily, and the entrance fee is 3USD. The ticket includes entrance to Phnom Sampeou.  You can get there by tuk-tuk from Battambang city center. 

Wat Ek Phnom

13km north of Battambang is Wat Ek Phnom, an impressive but partially collapsed temple. Built during the 11th century, under the reign of King Sorayak Varman II (1002-1050).

Right next to the temple is a very large white Buddha statue and a modern Buddhist temple. 

Wat Ek Phnom is open from 7 am – 7 pm daily, and the entrance fee is 1USD.  You can get there by tuk-tuk from Battambang city center. The drive is a gorgeous trip through the Cambodian countryside. 

On our way back to Battambang we came across some children playing football in the fields. They waved at us and asked if we want to play with them.  It was a very special moment, laughing and joking with the kids far away from any tourists. We were in the middle of real Cambodia and it felt great! 

Wat Somrong Knong

Wat Samrong Knong has two large Buddhist Temples. You will see an ancient 300-year-old wooden temple and a modern one. The wooden temple was the most sacred place in Battambang until the Kmer Rouge used the temple grounds as a prison (1976). At least 10 000 people were executed here. The old temple that was used as a prison is now abandoned.

Just outside the temple complex, you can find the Well of Shadows. The Well of Shadows is a memorial for those lost in this area during the Khmer Rouge genocide. At the top, skulls of the dead are encased in a glass box and at the bottom, bas reliefs depict the horrors that took place in the woods and rice fields surrounding the memorial.

Read our blog post about the Khmer Rouge here

Wat Somrong Knong is open from 7 am – 7 pm daily, and there is no entrance fee.  You can get there by tuk-tuk from Battambang city center. 

Bamboo Train

Battambang’s most popular tourist attraction, the bamboo train, or nori, born out of necessity in the years after the civil war, the train was originally used to ferry people and food around this part of Cambodia. Only a tiny section of the railway is still intact. The name ‘bamboo train’ comes from the bamboo flatbed on wheels, which is powered by a small motorcycle or tractor engine. 

The rail line stretches all the way down to Phnom Penh, but the tracks lie in complete abandon and disrepair, meaning the bamboo ride only runs 7 kilometers in length to a nearby village and back. The bamboo train can run up to 50 km per hour, which feels pretty fast. 

Sitting on straw mats that have been laid over the bamboo platform, we held onto whatever we could. We past by fields, bridges,… Locals walked on the tracks and only hopped off when the train was almost upon them. 

When we finished the first stretch of the journey and reached the village, we couldn’t wait to do it all over again! 

A girl approached us and told us that the train would be making a 10 minute stop here. We walked through the village and were approached by vendors; ‘You have to sit here, wait here, buy a drink, a drink is one dollar, you buy a drink, you buy scarves,… 

We didn’t buy anything and returned to our bamboo train to ride back. 

We enjoyed blasting through the fields, it was a fun experience! 

The Bamboo Train is open from 8 am – 7 pm daily, a ride cost 5USD per person. You can get there by tuk-tuk from Battambang city center. 

On the way to our next stop, our driver took a quick break. He stopped along the road next to a barbeque stand. When we got closer to the barbeque stand we saw that they were barbequing rats. Our tuk-tuk driver laughed at our reaction and asked if we want to taste one. He explained that the rats used for eating are rats that live in the rice fields and eat rice, vegetables, and roots, not common city rats. We were not disgusted but not ready to eat rat at that moment.  

Phnom Sampeau

Phnom Sampeau is a limestone mountain which is known for its gorgeous views and mesmerizing display of bats, which pour out of a massive cave-in its cliff face. To reach the top you will have to climb 1000 steep steps.

About halfway we reached the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau. Here, the Khmer Rouge regime murdered thousands of Cambodians and thrown them into the cave. They used this cave as a mass grave.  Walking down into this cave felt like something out of a horror movie. It was deathly still!  

After the Killing Cave, we continued our way up. On top, we found a complex of temples and several viewpoints. The climb was definitely worth it! The views over the area are stunning! We made our way down to the base of the mountain. 

The entrance fee for Phnom Sampeau is 1USD. If you visited Phnom Banan the entrance is free. You can get there by tuk-tuk from Battambang city center. 

Bat Cave

At the base of Phnom Sampeau, we grabbed a cold beer and waited for dusk to settle in. We were not the only one there, there was a huge crowd sitting on small plastic chairs along the road. Around 5.30 pm millions of bats burst out of the cave to hit the surrounding countryside for a night of hunting. This continued nonstop for over an hour. We were amazed by this natural spectacle! 

Kralan

Try Kralan! It is a delicious snack consisting of sticky rice, coconut milk, and black beans roasted inside bamboo.
 

Battambang surprised us! It wasn’t just the places we visited that made Battambang so special, it was driving through the countryside past wooden houses, cows, haystacks, friendly locals, and waving children.

If you are looking to explore rural Cambodia than Battambang is the place for you! 

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1 Comment

  1. Martine
    September 30, 2020 / 12:23 pm

    Weeral een prachtige belevenis!
    👍😀

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